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(We'll hold a Live Chat this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. if you want to talk more in-depth about this week's happenings and today's press conference with Mo Cheeks. Click here for the link.)
If you were unsure before today about the character of Maurice Cheeks (which is doubtful considering his history), he showed it (again).
On Monday, the 76ers announced a press conference with Cheeks for this morning at 10:30 a.m. at the Wachovia Center. It hasn't been the easiest three months for Cheeks. His team had struggled to 9-14, and there were questions about whether he was the right man to guide this revamped squad. And then, Saturday, as we all know, he was fired.
But it was interesting to hear what he would say. Would he allude to not being given enough time to mesh the off-season additions? Would he speak of the shift in identity with Elton Brand, yet the continued mantra that this should be a running team? Would he say the task he was given was impossible?
I think we all know the answers to those questions. Of course he wouldn't. He's all class, all the time.
Here's what he did say:
"First of all, now I have a little bit more time for The Sports Club ..." -- typical Cheeks to make a joke to ease a tough situation. He later said, while laughing, that sometimes you have to laugh instead of cry. So true.
Cheeks started by thanking the organization, Ed Stefanski, and the city for the opportunity to be the head coach in the city in which he started his playing career. Many times throughout the morning he said this was his city, he loved this city, and he would be open to working with the Sixers in a different capacity. Although he said no one has approached him yet on the topic. Stefanski did say on Saturday that he would talk to Mo about this after the Holidays.
Cheeks said, "This is a tough situation for me, but it's part of the business. If you're not winning games, things happen. I can't express my appreciation as much as I'd like. No one understands the feelings inside when you get fired." (In such a public forum.)
"I used to say when we had a bad game, 'It's a moment, and it will pass.' Well this is a moment. I take solace in the fact I did the best I could. This is not about pointing fingers. I'm not even going to go into the X's and O's part of it. I'm not going to go into the blame game. No one that gets fired can come up here and say, 'Look' no one feels good about it. I would assume the Sixer organization doesn't feel good about it."
Even though Cheeks made it clear he didn't want to talk about the on-court part of the decision, the questions kept coming, "Did they expect you to be a running team but didn't give you the pieces to actually be a running team?"
"Whether we could run, didn't run, I'm not getting into it ... There's a lot of things in this life that are just not fair, there's no point for me to discuss those things. My job is to go out and win games whether they hired 10 new players or 1 new player ... We went out everyday and tried."
"What we were going to do is what we tried to do. We were going to run. We didn't do it as well as we would have liked."
"I thought we were going to run. It's not going to benefit anyone to say, 'We couldn't run, we couldn't rebound,' It does me no good to say those things."
"Anytime you get let go it hurts, not being able to finish ... finish what we started. I really thought we had an opportunity to win."
"It does come down to having certain players who can do certain things. But it also comes down to the coach getting the certain players to do certain things."
Added Cheeks: "I had some quality players and character-wise, I don't think I can get much better."
Cheeks talked a little bit about last season's playoff run and how, possibly, that success led to this day. Meaning that he raised expectations.
"We won more games ... for whatever reason. We had a cohesion. And the cohesion we had at that times was pretty special." Then Cheeks said that if he hadn't had that run at the end of last season, he probably would have said goodbye much sooner.
When did he know he would be fired?
"You just know things are not going the way you want them to. Having been around this business for 30 years, you know how things go ... There were games for us that could have turned it a different way."
Games Cheeks mentioned: The second half against Chicago. The Rashard Lewis 3-pointer in the Orlando Magic game at home. The lifeless loss at the Charlotte Bobcats.
Cheeks said after he was fired he received many nice phone calls, texts, emails, letters, etc., which was hard for him. He said what was especially hard was hearing from his players.
"I was pushing myself away as much as possible, then getting those texts was difficult for me."
Cheeks said you can say to yourself all the time, "If I had a shooter ... If I had this rebounder ..." but that he "tried to do with what he had, the best he could."
Cheeks said he felt it was a healthy thing for him to step away for a little bit. He said before the press conference was set, he was heading to Miami, and that now he will head to Miami to "get some sun on his face and re-energize and figure out the best next step." He said he doesn't know if he will coach again.
Why did Cheeks halt his plans to Miami to have this press conference?
"I think it would have been a little selfish for me to pick up and leave ... as a head coach there's so many people that support you and you don't often have a chance to say 'thank you.'"
Did Philadelphia see a different side of Cheeks, as a coach?
"They saw a different side of me ... I haven't changed. I got a little older, a little wiser."
Cheeks said he was 21 when he first came to Philly, and he is 52 now. (Cheeks said he preferred playing to coaching ... not sure anyone can blame him.)
"A lot has gone on in my life since I first came here."
Can this team be a playoff team?
"I think it's a good basketball team. They have good young players and if they keep going they have a chance."
Can he pinpoint what happened this season?
"Expectations started to mount. I kept trying to find ways to do this and do that ... I kept trying to pull and pull and pull and nothing was coming. Then you know it's time."